[IPAC-List] The lights finally go on

Mark Hammer Mark.Hammer at psc-cfp.gc.ca
Mon Aug 16 13:12:13 EDT 2010

Well, there are two issues, I guess. One is the specific case that
initiated the current bout of grumbling from the right, and questioning
of EE legislation. And the other is the seemingly perpetual battle with
those who see policies intended to foster diversity and
representativeness in government as CONTRARY to merit.

Issue #1: You're right. The *software* was transparent, but the
motives underlying it were clearly not. If it was 1980, and the woman
had walked into a "personnel office" (remember those?), someone might
have had the decency to tell her that her resumé looks great but they
were looking for something different at the moment, but they would like
to hang onto her file anyway. Someone left all of that up to the
software, and the software didn't do a particularly good job. Of
course, the applicant could not be expected to understand the rationale
behind what the software was set up to do in the absence of further a
priori explanation of the rationale underlying that staffing action.
There was nothing particularly wrong in the strategy adopted y the
hiring manager, but there are things software can do, and stuff it
can't. Breaking bad news is one of things it doesn't do well.
Predictably, outsourcing the human touch to technology ended up causing
problems and national headlines unnecessarily.

Issue #2: Under our law, we make a distinction between essential
qualifications, and three other factors: asset qualifications,
organizational needs and operational requirements. Hiring managers must
show how the appointee meets the essentials, but can also factor in some
combination of the other 3 (presently it seems from our survey data like
"operational requirements" is the most commonly applied consideration,
judging it by the frequency of nominations). Representativeness falls
under "organizational needs" and is considered a component of merit,
such that the hiring manager can (assuming it's defensible) explicitly
target an under-represented group in the poster, the same way they might
target people with expertise in some area, or simply use it as a
"tie-breaker". Of course, should they not find anyone suitably
qualified from that group, they can certainly mutter "aw shucks" and
select from among those meeting the essential qualifications outside
that group. Or perhaps they can re-advertise if they're not in a hurry,
but the law at least lets them focus for starters.

The notion that a manager would normally go beyond mere "essential
qualifications" in making a selection decision is the part that seems to
be lost on those who find something suspicious and pernicious in
diversity strategies. My argument is that applicants/candidates don't
anticipate managerial reasoning and selection decisions, and managers
and the policy community don't effectively anticipate candidate


>>> "Doverspike,Dennis" <dd1 at uakron.edu> 2010/08/16 12:23 PM >>>


I am not sure I understand the whole story. But it appears from reading
the incident you put at the end - that candidates that were white were
specifically excluded from applying for the job and were told that was
the case by the software. At least the software was transparent, I
believe that is where the controversy really starts from, the lack of
transparency, not from differences in the definition of merit. But
returning to your story, you are arguing that setting up a system that
specifically excluded whites falls under what definition?


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